You may have heard about the recent passing of Zaha Hadid, a world renowned architect famous for strikingly innovative designs and for breaking new ground for women in architecture. She was a Muslim, raised in Iraq and later establishing a large architectural firm in London, receiving the honor of being a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 2012. To say the least her work transcends religion and gender and any other common classification you could think of!
Here is an example of her recent work, the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games. Even an untrained eye can see how she dispensed with traditional squared off architectural principles and created something organic and flowing – in fact she was trying to express the easy movement and flow of water itself!
Earlier in the new century, in 2004, she was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of architecture. She was the first woman and first Muslim to win this prestigious award. This prize was founded in 1979 by Chicago’s own Jay and Cindy Pritzker and is sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation. Notice the organic motifs on the medal shown above, hearkening to the work of Chicago’s own Louis Sullivan.
Speaking of Chicago, Zaha Hadid prepared a design and bid for selection as the architect for the upcoming 1000 S. Michigan high rise development. She lost to Helmut Jahn, but that is nothing to be ashamed of! His amazing design, which was recently changed as shown above to be more in harmony with the Michigan Avenue Historic District guidelines, was one of the few that could compare to her distinctive efforts.
I’ll say goodbye to Ms. Hadid with her latest and hopefully most memorable building, 520 West 28th Street in New York City. It exemplifies a master architect at the very height of her powers. The greenway to the right of the building is the Highline Trail, a converted railroad right of way on Manhattan’s west side.
I can only hope that similar architectural projects will be inspired by, and come to rise alongside, Chicago’s 606 Trail. Like the Highline but even longer, it cuts a green space along an old railroad right of way. It was opened last year, and has quickly become the pride of Wicker Park. It took genius to make fresh and welcoming space out of an old eyesore – sometimes the powers that be in this old town get it right!
Finally I wanted to bring attention to a new book about Benjamin Marshall, the Roaring Twenties architect to the stars, called "Benjamin H. Marshall: Chicago Architect". He joined in with the lifestyle of his clients, driving a Packard convertible and throwing “Gatsby-like” parties at his pink, Spanish-style, lakefront mansion in Wilmette! But the authors, John Zukowsky and Jean Guarino, give proper credit to his amazing architectural contributions, such as five of the eight buildings along East Lake Shore Drive, (the most expensive real estate in Chicago), the South Shore Cultural Center, the Blackstone Hotel, and many others.
Keep your fingers crossed Cubs fans, we might finally have something here!!